Young people impacted by the rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the impending end of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), testified at the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission at its meeting Wednesday.
Before their testimony, DuWayne Gregory, the Suffolk County Legisture’s presiding officer, spoke in support of undocumented youth, emphasizing that they represent one of the county’s “most vulnerable and innocent populations.”
“Suffolk County is rich with diversity and culture, nurtured by our immigrant community, we stand on values of respect for others, inclusiveness of our differences, and support of those in need. In my personal opinion, repealing this program is in direct opposition to these values,” Gregory said.
Walter Barrientos, Long Island organizing director with Make the Road New York, introduced two other members of the organization affected by the devastating decisions.
“The situation in immigrant communities around the country is a dire one. We are seeing everyday through social media and videos all of the different abuses of power by different layers of law enforcement being launched against our communities,” Barrientos said. “Many of those have occurred here in Suffolk County.”
France Duffoo, of Bay Shore, was brought to the United States from Peru by her parents at 6 years old with her sister.
Graduating from high school in 2012, she said that DACA gave her the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I was able to get a drivers license and work for the first time. And, just feel like a person. And, just help my parents as well because my parents are undocumented,” Duffoo, 23, said. “They have been living in the shadows for a very long time. I was able to help them with the bills.”
She said that she is proud to be Peruvian, but considers New York and Long Island as her true home. With DACA on the chopping block, she’s worried her dreams will fall short.
“It’s a human right to be able to pursue your dreams and to become a professional and to help this country grow. But now, that’s being taken away,” Duffoo said.
As for Rodman Serrano, he was born in Queens, as the son of two immigrants from El Salvador. They fled the bloody civil war and natural disasters in the early 1990s. Also arriving here at 6 years old, he said his parents sought a better circumstances for their future children.
“I love my parents very much. They were able to support me and my sisters both because of their hard work, because of their love for us,” said Serrano, who is set to graduate from Stony Brook University next year.
He recalled being 5 years old when his father was working at a car wash, when the business was suddenly raiding by immigration agents. They detained his father for more than a month.
“I had no idea where he was. I remember feeling very sad, I was crying. It was a nightmare,” Serrano, 23, said, adding that thankfully he was able to come back home.
Since then, both of his parents were able to secure relief from deportation through TPS.
“This program helps support and protect thousands of families like mine across Long Island and in Suffolk County from being torn apart. These are families who have deep roots in this country, who contribute a lot through working, paying taxes, owning small businesses,” Serrano explained.
Chair of the commission, Rabbi Dr. Steven Moss, said the testimony would be recorded and sent to elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels.
“What they share with us is not just for these walls and ears, but rather hopefully, for the ears of those who can make a difference,” Moss said. “One thing is for sure… what affects one person, affects everybody. We are all one, thereby, we stand with you.”